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Last Updated: Friday, 7 October 2005, 10:11 GMT 11:11 UK
Blair and Chirac revive alliance
UK PM Tony Blair with President Jacques Chirac at the Elysee, 7 Oct 05
Bonhomie was restored - but the EU lacks a common vision
Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac have stressed their determination jointly to meet the challenges facing Europe.

The two leaders sought to play down their differences over the EU budget and reforms in the 25-nation bloc.

France "will deploy all its support for the British [EU] presidency," Mr Chirac said after the informal talks in Paris.

Mr Blair stressed the need to "find a way forward" together as Europe's citizens questioned EU policies.

EU leaders needed to agree on how to handle the challenge of globalisation, Mr Blair said, pointing to the emerging global power of China and India.

His call for joint efforts was echoed by Mr Chirac, who said "We are both determined to be a force of harmony for the Europe of tomorrow".

Reform agenda

His talks with Mr Chirac focused on preparations for the EU summit at Hampton Court in London on 27-28 October.

The EU project lost momentum after the double blow struck by voters in France and the Netherlands, who rejected the new EU constitution earlier this year.

Everyone knows there can and will be differences of opinion ... between Britain and France - this is normal
President Chirac
Mr Blair is hoping to use the rest of Britain's EU presidency - which ends in December - to introduce far-reaching reform of the EU.

But Mr Chirac has resisted UK pressure for the EU to overhaul its Common Agricultural Policy.

Mr Blair has also called for reform of the European social model of generous state benefits and employment rights, to help Europe compete with China and India.

Differences boiled over at the Brussels summit in June, when EU leaders failed to agree a budget.

At the time Mr Chirac called on Britain to contribute more generously to EU finances by giving up part of its budget rebate.

Mr Blair responded by insisting Britain's contribution had to be linked to reform of European farm subsidies, which Mr Chirac staunchly defends and which greatly benefit French farmers.

The UK argues that the subsidies would be better spent on education and technology to raise the EU's competitiveness.

The UK is anxious to resolve the deadlock over a new 2007-2013 EU budget before its presidency ends.

Since the London bombs in July, both countries have been keen to emphasise the constructive nature of their relations, said the BBC's Alasdair Sandford, in Paris.



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